Essential theology books of the past 25 years

October 4, 2010
Theological Hall, Strahov Monastery Library, Prague. Image by Flickr user Jametiks, licensed under Creative Commons.

We posed this question to eight theologians: Suppose someone who hasn't been keeping up with theology for the past 25 years now wants to read the most important books written during that time. What five titles would you suggest?

Their responses are linked below:

Stanley Hauerwas

Amos Yong

Emilie M. Townes

Lawrence S. Cunningham

Sarah Coakley

Kevin J. Vanhoozer

George Hunsinger

Willie James Jennings



Girard is not a theologian per se. I do wonder that nothing by James Alison is mentioned.

Sam Harris

Sam Harris's, The End of Faith would seem to be required reading as well. Indeed, I think the atheist challenge must be considered in any discussion of theological development in the past 25 years.

"If we don't have apologetic

"If we don't have apologetic arguments up our sleeve to respond to skeptical atheism, we are empty-handed as Christians."

I hope they're better than the ones you've already released from your sleeve.

My Five

Misquoting Jesus - Bart Ehrman
Jesus Interupted - Bart Ehrman
God's Problem - Bart Ehrman
Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew - Bart D. Ehrman
When Jesus Became God - Richard E. Rubenstein

Ehrman? Really?

Ehrman writes decent books for educated adults who don't study theology. And, unlike Spong (who someone else likes here), he is at least honest enough to admit he's a non-believer. But he says nothing new. He adds nothing new to theology.

There's nothing wrong with being a describer. Nothing wrong with passing on what other scholars have said. But listing a Bart Ehrman's book (or a Spong book) as essential theology reading is like listing a Dan Brown book as essential fiction reading. Popular does equal significant.

Rowan is worth considering

Theology and Social Theory - John Milbank

On Christian Theology - Rowan Williams

Exculsion and Embrace - Miroslacv Volf

The Nature of Doctrine - George Lindbeck

God Matters - Herbert McCabe


I am not sure this list will do anyone outside of the academic community any good, as I imagine most of these book are too heavy for anyone other than people with graduate degrees. I am glad N.T. Wright got mentioned though.

I would suggest a more recent title by Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything. Probably not as heavy a book as any on the list but it is full great theological insight and provides a fresh perspective on Trinty.

Gordon Kaufman

Thank you for these recommendations. There is much
here to savor and explore.

I might add books by Gordon Kaufman and Paula Cooey.
Both are at the edge, I suppose, but they wrote brilliant works. Professor
Kaufman died last summer. I am not as skeptical as Professor Cooey but I
appreciate her take on religious belief.